Natural disasters are inevitable. They cause destruction and chaos to the world. One of the disasters that brought total havoc and genocide is undeniably an avalanche. Below are the ten avalanches events around the world and their impacts. 

1. Yungay, Peru

Date of OccurrenceMay 31, 1970
LocationYungay, Peru 
Damage30,000 dead people and 11 villages destroyed
Possible ReasonEarthquake dislodging a slab of rock from Huascaran’s north peak

The catastrophic event occurred on May 31, 1970. The earthquake off the coast of Peru caused a section of the north slope to collapse, which caused the avalanche. 

It took the lives of over 20000 people. The avalanche plummeted at a speed of 100MPH with an estimated mass of 80 million cubic feet of ice, mud, and rock. 

Burying the towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca in up to 300 feet of rock and debris, the avalanche nearly ran 11 miles. 

It is to date considered the deadliest avalanche or glacier-related disaster in history. It is also the fourth-deadliest landslide-related disaster of the 20th century. 

The north peak of Huascaran that caused the avalanche has been unstable since 1962. The government had the information that something was ticking off; still, they chose to keep silent not to panic the public. 

The day couldn’t have been worse because of the earthquake on the same day when people were congregating in the market. The mudflow flowed downstream to the pacific ocean, causing too many casualties.

2. Tyrolean Alps

Impact of Tyrolean alps avalanche in Vermigilio| Photo by Austrian National library
Date of OccurrenceDecember 1916
LocationNorthern Italy and Western Austria 
Damage10,000 troops in the mountains 
Possible ReasonThe area is susceptible to avalanches

‘Tyrol’ is a historical territory in the Alps – in northern Italy and western Austria. The Tyrol region has five mountains with the highest peak, “the outlet “of 3905 m.a.s.l. 

It was during the first world war. Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers positioned themselves on the highest peak of the snowy alps as a vantage point to prevent enemy combatants. 

They brought all the essential equipment and weapons to the mountainsides. They dug tunnels in the peaks and built living quarters among the Craig.

Unfortunately, their whole plan was doomed because nature had other plans for them. That winter in the alpine region was the snowiest on record. 

Snow-covered up to 40 feet in some areas. The accumulation of snow combined with the detonation of explosives planted underneath resulted in a massive avalanche that took the lives of ten thousand troops. The bodies of soldiers were unable to trace back then. 

After almost 100 years, the bodies have been recovered from the site. The avalanche was one of the deadliest avalanches with tremendous damage. 

3. Ranrahirca, Peru 

Overview of area affected and unaffected area of Yongay and Ranrahirca region avalanches
a) Region of impact, b) west release face of avalanche and c) cemetery hill for Yongay and Ranrahirca, Peru| Image by Servicio Aerofotogramétrico Nacional
Date of OccurrenceJanuary 10, 1962
LocationRanrahirca, Peru
Damage5,500 people died, with seven settlement areas destroyed 
Possible ReasonThe massive avalanche of snow, mud, rocks triggered by the earthquake 

Ranrahirca was a village in Peru near Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru. Massive avalanches of snow, rocks hit it, and mud, forming on the slopes of Huascarán and activated by an earthquake on January 10, 1962. 

Over two thousand people from the village died in the earthquake, along with the inhabitants of seven nearby settlements. 

Three thousand five hundred people died in the disaster. On the evening of January 10, the people enjoyed their dinner in their homes when the edge of a glacier suddenly broke apart and descended the mountain.

The block of ice weighed approximately 6 million tons, was the size of two skyscrapers, and it produced a loud noise when it fell, which was heard everywhere in the towns below.

4. Plurs, Switzerland 

Plurs Avalanche 1818| Sketch by Johann Hardmeyer
Date of Occurrence1618 AD
LocationPlurs, Switzerland 
DamageDestruction of a town
Possible ReasonThe lower parts of a mountain became weak because of excessive and careless mining.

The avalanche was so massive that it wiped out an entire village. The day of remorse for a whole nation, the September 4 of 1618, was the sunny day after a rainy period from August 14 to August 20. 

The village was situated in the lap of a mountain condo. Talcum mining had brought a century of wealth to the entire region. 

500m above the town, the horizontally disposed talcum layers in the workers in gneiss excavated in a very careless way.

Boles was not used in the mines, and no material was relocated in the older tunnels to support the weight of the lying mountain, even though the authorities never controlled the security of these improvised quarries. 

For years, noises and fissures in the rocks were evident. August 25 was the day when the mountain trembled. Cut to September, where there were about 2500 casualties. Only four people survived from that village who were away during that incident.

5. Swiss-Austrian Alps

road clearance after an avalanche in alps
Clearing road from Zernez to Brail after winter of terror at 1950-1951| Image by Bibliothek
Date of Occurrence1950-1951 AD
LocationAustria–Switzerland border
Damage227 peoples died in total 
Possible ReasonA typical weather condition

The avalanche took place in three months during the winter of 1950- 1951. Those three months are now known as the winter of terror. An unexpected number of avalanches took place in the Alps along the Austria–Switzerland border. 

It was a series of 649 avalanches taking the lives of 265 people while destroying residential areas and other human-made structures. 

Since the avalanche took place on the borders, both countries suffered. Austria suffered tremendous damage and loss of human life, with 135 killed and many villages destroyed. Acres of economically valuable forests were damaged in the process in both countries. 

Valais canton, a place in Switzerland, suffered 92 human deaths, approximately 500 cattle deaths, and the destruction of 900 human-made structures. The period is said to result from atypical weather conditions in the alps.

The high precipitation from an Atlantic warm front with a polar cold front resulted in 3–4.5 meters of snow deposited in about three days. Six hundred buildings were destroyed, and over 40,000 people were buried under snow.

6. Lahaul valley, India 

Lahaul valley villages after an avalanche
Destruction on Lahaul valley villages after an avalanche| Photo by South Report
Date of OccurrenceMarch 1979 
LocationLahaul valley, India 
Damage200 casualties 
Possible ReasonAvalanches are very prevalent in the region

Avalanches are widespread in Lahaul alley in the winter season from November to April. Most avalanches occur in the deep nullahs away from the residential areas.

In the past, the avalanches in the area have killed so many peoples and destroyed villages. Moreover, the avalanche in march of 1979 was one the most destructive in the history of India. 

Causing 200 casualties, a series of snowstorms over five days resulted in avalanches that descended the foothills of the Himalayas in Himalayan Pradesh state. The debris, stone, and snow dumped up to 20 feet of the Inhabitat area.

7. North Ossetia, Russia 

View of Karmadon valley after the catastrophe; Nizhnii Karmadon village under the ice| Image by Russian Ministry of Extreme Events
Date of OccurrenceSeptember 21, 2002 
LocationNorth Ossetia, Russia 
Damage150 dead 
Possible ReasonGlacier outburst 

On September 21, 2002, an unpredicted catastrophe occurred. The avalanche had just occurred 30 years after the previous surge. 

It is said that the external condition may have accelerated the time cycle. A collapsed glacier chunk on mount Kazbek turned into a 20 million ton avalanche that rampaged down the Karmadon gorge. 

It took down several villages with it. There were 150 casualties in the incident. A famous Russian director/actor was also one of the casualties: he was there with his production team for a movie shoot.

The most unexpected phenomenon seen in the circus of the Kolka glacier is that the glacier had left its bed entirely, revealing the bare rock bed. 

The avalanche left with an incredible velocity, which means it must have flown out onto the Kolka Glacier. Nothing similar has been observed anywhere in the world. 

8. Siachen avalanche

Pathway of avalanche pathway 2016
Siachen avalanche pathway 2016| Image by Indian Army
Date of OccurrenceFebruary 3, 2016 
LocationKarakoram range 
DamageTen Indian soldiers died 
Possible ReasonAccumulated fresh snow 

In April 2012, an avalanche hit a Pakistan base in the disputed Siachen Glacier region that trapped 140 soldiers and civilian contractors under snow. 

It was the worst avalanche that the Pakistani military has ever experienced. On May 29, 2012, Pakistan declared that 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were dead. 

9. Wellington Washington avalanche 

debris after avalanche in wellington 1910
Debris of a wellington avalanche 1910| Image source: Trips into history
Date of OccurrenceFebruary 1910
LocationWellington, Washington 
Damage96 fatalities 
Possible ReasonSevere blizzard 

The Wellington avalanche was the deadliest avalanche ever recorded in the history of the United States, causing the death of 96 people in total. 

Wellington experienced a blizzard for nine-day at the end of February 1910. Up to a foot (30 cm) of snow fell every hour, and, on the worst day, eleven feet (340 cm) of snow fell.

Two passengers, both bound from Spokane to Seattle, were trapped in the depot. The snow accumulation was so massive that snowplows couldn’t penetrate along the stretch of tracks between Scenic and Leavenworth. 

10. Blons, Austria 

damage by blons avalanche 1954
Damage caused by Blons avalanche 1954| Photo by Helmut Klapper
Date of OccurrenceJanuary 1954 
LocationBlons, Austria 
Damage125 peoples died 
Possible ReasonBlons’s area is surrounded by rocks susceptible to erosion. 

The Blons avalanche took place in Austria in January of 1962. The avalanches occurred in the Volarberg that had a significant impact on the Great Walser valley region and, specifically, the village of Blons. 

Avalanches hit the area within two days. The first occurred on January 11, 1954, which resulted in the death of 125 people. Two Big avalanches struck Blons within 9 hours. 

It nearly killed one-third of the population. The Blons avalanches are considered one of the worst mass burials in Austrian history, resulting in one of the highest fatalities due to an avalanche. 

The aftermath of the avalanches resulted in 270 burials resulting in 125 deaths, 55 houses and hundreds of farm buildings destroyed, and 500 dead cattle. Out of 376 people in blogs, 111 people were outright killed by the avalanches. 

The Austrian alps are always susceptible to avalanches. Too much cold weather and rapid increase in snowfall were too much to handle: the cause for the avalanches.

Recent Avalanche at Thasang, Mustang 

Date of OccurrenceNovember 14, 2021
LocationThasang, mustang 
Damage11 peoples injured 
Possible ReasonAccumulated fresh snow 

On November 14, 2021, a deadly snow avalanche hit Nepal’s mustang district. Villagers from villages( Larjung, Kowang, and Nurikot) were injured in this catastrophe, rolling down the mountains and descending on the town below.

The avalanche left eleven people injured. The snow slide continued for about 30 minutes before coming to a rest. 

The avalanche erupted from Tukuche mountain and blew downslope over Janaharsha Amarsingh High School. Out of the 11 people injured, seven were students. 

Avalanche of Mustang on November 14| Copyright: Online Khabar np

The video went viral over the media after a few days. In the video, you can see the snow plummeting from the mountain crest, and suddenly in no time, the beautiful scene is rapidly sliding downwards. The scene created havoc in the whole area. 

The avalanches mentioned above left indelible destruction in history. The avalanches killed millions of people and destroyed a lot of habitats, and there is no one to blame. 

The avalanches are unforeseen; however, most of the avalanches speed up because of the irresponsible activities of humans. 

Humans are partly to blame for those disasters. So, protection should be prioritized instead of repenting and repairing the damages.

(Last Updated on January 24, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Saurav Khadka, with his A levels in computer science from Saipal Academy, owns a keen desire to know more about the environment. He wants to preach his knowledge to others by learning through his hobbies; reading, writing, traveling, and watching movies. He believes sharing his insight regarding a sustainable environment will undoubtedly generate positive perceptions in the people.